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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2005, 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK
Chavez swipes at 'assassin' Bush
Hugo Chavez
Chavez is an outspoken critic of the US
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says US President George W Bush will be to blame if anything happens to him.

He was speaking after US TV evangelist Pat Robertson called for his assassination in comments the US State Department said were "inappropriate".

Mr Robertson has apologised saying he was frustrated at Mr Chavez's constant accusations against Washington.

US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who condemned the comments, hopes to meet Mr Chavez while visiting Caracas.

Rev Ted Haggard, a senior representative of America's evangelical Christians, has also said he wants to meet Mr Chavez to apologise for Pat Robertson's comments.

Mr Chavez said on Friday that Pat Robertson "was expressing the wishes of the US elite".

"If anything happens to me then the man responsible will be George W Bush. He will be the assassin," the Venezuelan president said at a public event. "This is pure terrorism."

Missionaries' safety

The Rev Jesse Jackson denounced Pat Robertson's comments as "morally reprehensible and dangerously suggestive".

He is hoping to meet Mr Chavez on Sunday, during his three-day visit to Venezuela to speak at a ceremony.

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson has apologised for his call to "take out" Chavez

The Rev Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said on Friday he also wanted to distance US Christians from the remarks.

He was in Mexico, where he is meeting a friend of Mr Chavez, and was hoping to travel on to Caracas.

Mr Haggard said he wanted to secure assurances from Mr Chavez about the safety of American evangelical missionaries working in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government temporarily suspended permits for foreign missionaries on Friday so regulations for preachers in the country could be tightened.

"We were already working on this, but these declarations have made us speed things up," said chief of the Justice Ministry's religious affairs unit, Carlos Gonzalez.

Political rivalry

On Monday, Pat Robertson told viewers of his influential TV show, the 700 Club, that the US should act on Mr Chavez's recurrent complaints that the US was allegedly trying to assassinate him.

"I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," he said.

It comes amid tense relations between the two countries.

Washington regards the Venezuelan leader as a dangerous left-winger with ambitions to dominate South America, says the BBC Justin Webb in Caracas.

Mr Chavez - a friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro - equally dislikes Mr Bush, and regularly suggests to his people that the Bush administration provides a military threat to Venezuela.

The two nations have recently broken off co-operation on combating illegal drugs, though America still buys Venezuelan oil. The nation is the world's fifth-largest producer.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
US government responds to Mr Robertson's assassination call



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